Tony Award winner Betty Buckley may be headed back to Broadway in a new musical entitled The Diner Stories. Nancy Shayne, who has written the book, music and lyrics for the new musical, confirmed to PBOL Oct. 15 that Buckley will take part in a workshop of the project on Dec. 16 and 17.
Like Contact, Diner Stories is comprised of three separate stories: "Two Bitter Women in a Coffee Shop," "Peppy and Leonard Visit the Big Apple" and "Hang in There." Though unrelated, all three take place in a diner over a 24-hour period. Buckley, who Shayne says "plays the main woman in all three," will appear in the workshop with Jekyll and Hyde's Christiane Noll, Funny Girl's Leslie Kritzer, L.A. actress Mary Pat Gleason ("The Crucible") and "Sopranos" actor Dominic Chianese, who is also part of the current production of The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. A sixth role is currently being cast.
When asked about the score for the musical, Shayne says, "It's theatre, definitely Broadway theatre music. It's melodic and dark — it's serious." Also a comedian and a comedy writer (for "Roseanne"), Shayne says Diner Stories mixes comedy with tragedy. "I have to say, even though I wrote it, it's really good," Shayne laughs. "I'm so proud of the level of intimacy. It's extremely intimate. It's not big — it's more like a small chamber musical. I conceived it so only three people could be watching it, but, of course, I'd like thousands!"
Randal Myler, who helmed Off-Broadway's Love, Janis, will direct the workshop and is also responsible for nabbing Buckley for the project. Shayne explains, "Randy saw my show. I did it at Ensemble Studio Theatre, part of their Octoberfest. He approached me at Naked Angels awhile later to direct it. His wife, Catherine Curtin, played Janis in Love Janis, and her agent-manager is Betty Buckley's. Randy passed [our request] to the manager. We had made a dream list of who I wanted in the show, and I wanted Betty. I'm really, really lucky that my show has never gotten passed around. You know, sometimes we're just lucky."
Shayne also adds, "[Diner Stories] covers a lot of different age groups, which is kind of neat. I never originally wrote my stories for one person, but when we did our first in-house reading, Betty was actually brilliantly able to make the adjustment. [The work] took on a really interesting meaning. That's where we are right now, and everyone is pretty excited." Shayne hopes for a spring out-of-town tryout prior to Broadway. Betty Buckley — who received a Tony nomination for her most recent Broadway outing in Triumph of Love — also offered heartfelt performances in Sunset Boulevard, Carrie, Song & Dance, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, 1776 and Promises, Promises. She won a Tony Award for her performance as Grizabella in the Broadway production of Cats, and she starred on the London stage in Promises, Promises and Sunset Boulevard, earning an Olivier Award nomination for her work in the latter. Also a TV ("Eight Is Enough") and film (Tender Mercies) star, the actress-singer devotes much of her time to concert appearances around the world. Her solo CD, "Stars and the Moon: Betty Buckley Live at the Donmar Warehouse," was nominated for a Grammy Award, and her newest recording, "The Doorway," will hit stores Oct. 22 to coincide with her engagement at New York's Feinstein's at the Regency.
—By Andrew Gans